The day we visited the Vietnam Museum of National History was balmy. The skies were grey, about to rain. We walked fast, past the Hanoi Opera House, past the boutiques of international luxury brands, to the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel. I am about to spend money on probably my most luxurious purchase in our whole Vietnam trip, and I was quite excited. Advertisements
We’ve circled the Old Quarters thrice and always came back to the rotunda beside the Hoan Kiem Lake to see the flow of traffic in the late afternoon. Finally, after watching the Thang Long water puppet show on a Monday, we plopped ourselves in the fourth floor of the Cong Caphe, enjoyed our local coffee, with what I think was the best view in the whole of Hanoi.
What is Vietnam without mentioning coffee, right? Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world so a trip to Vietnam would not be complete without drinking coffee. In our month-long trip, I would have to say that the egg coffee (ca phe trung) was not just the most unique coffee I have tasted in Vietnam, it was also the most delicious. And the best place to have it is in the place where it all started — Cafe Giang.
Prior to flying to Vietnam, I made a list of “museums to visit” and there were about 10. But because I was more interested in checking out the cultural side of the country, I decided to just narrow it down to one — the National Museum of History in Hanoi. I had no expectations of the museum, which is why I truly enjoyed our time here.
Sixty years after Hanoi was established as a city in independent Vietnam, Van Mieu (or more popularly referred to in English as The Temple of Literature) was founded as a Confucian school. The temple is one of the oldest and most significant buildings among Confucian complexes in Vietnam, and still remains a treasured cultural edifice.
Thang Long was the former name of Hanoi. It literally means “rising dragon” and this dragon is the same dragon that descended upon in Ha Long Bay, at least according to our guide, aptly named Mr. Vietnam. While Hanoi is famous for being a charming old-world timeless city, it was also the birthplace of many great empires, the remains of which has been inscribed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I was sitting there, expecting a so-so performance of folk music, hoping I was not wasting money because I have seen it somewhere else. When the dragons, on the water, spitted fire, I was up on my seat, my bag’s contents almost spilling, with tears in my eyes, clapping like an eight-year old kid who has just seen the most magnificent show on earth.
The boats coming in, I am looking at the eerily serene world-famous karst from a deserted part of the Tuan Chua Island. It was a Saturday, our second day in Vietnam, and our first weekend in the country. How many people can say they spent their Saturday afternoon looking at the spectacular Ha Long Bay? Today’s cancellation horror turned out to be one of our best, if not THE best, memory of Vietnam.
During our trip to Vietnam, we were very circumspect in selecting the places we would be visiting so that we would have, at least, a deeper understanding of the country, its people, and its way of life. In Hanoi, one of the places we checked out was an old house — a heritage house — that has been restored to its former 19th century style.
Touring the Angkor archaeological park in one day is not enough. But because we had a private car and driver, we were able to dictate our time and was still able to explore the town of Siem Reap despite the very limited time we had in the country. While on our way to Angkor Wat, I instantly had the regret of having only one day to explore both the UNESCO World Heritage site and the town where the site is located because of the town’s shady trees, cute cafes, shops, and architecture. Here are my 10 things to do to enjoy Siem Reap outside of the famous historic temples.
Ta Prohm was made popular because of Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movie. In fact, Ta Prohm is commonly referred to in Siem Reap as “the Lara Croft” temple. When I did further research, I later learned Ta Prohm is not just significant because it was used as a backdrop for Angelina Jolie’s movie nor because of the popular photo of the roots of a huge tree taking over part of the complex. Ta Prohm is not a temple.